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Bay Psalm 23
2013
by Dan Senn
for a cappella
From The Bay Psalm Book
1640
The first book published in North America
SATB Choir - duration ci. 4'40"
Bay Psalm 23 is the first work of Four Psalms Modal for a cappella choir and uses a text from the first book published in North America, The Bay Psalm Book, written as a metrical Psalter. Following the Gutenberg Bibles by more than a century, the Book holds a unique place in American cultural and religious history. A group of New England clergy, Richard Mather and others, transcribed biblical psalms into this metered verse. Just 20 years after the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock, in 1620, they printed 1700 copies of the book in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Original editions are extremely rare and highly valued with only ten believed to still exist. Even so, online representation are readily accessible.

The Bay Psalm Book
followed the first Gutenberg Bibles by more than 150 years and laid the groundwork for texts of the American Revolution such as Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.”
1 The Lord to me a shepherd is,
Want therefore I shall not,
He in the folds of tender grass
Doth make me down to lie
2 To waters calm he gently leads

Restore my soul doth he
He doth in paths of righteousness
For his names sake lead me.
3 Yea though in valley of death’s shade
I walk none ill I’ll fear,
Because thou art with me, thy rod,
and staff my comfort are.
4 For me a table thou hast spread
In presence of my foes;
Thou dost annoint my head with oil
My cup it over–flows.
5 Goodness and mercy surely shall
All my days follow me;
And in the Lord’s house I shall dwell
So long as days shall be.

Bay Psalm 23 is a modal piece written in the dorian, then the aolian, the harmonic minor, the aolian and, again, the dorian modes. A piano reduction is included for rehearsals, but the piece should be sung a cappella. It is permissible to perform the work a half or whole step lower than written. With the divisi, a minimum of eight voices are needed to perform this work.

Bay Psalm 23 was written for and dedicated to my wife Caroline. It is the first work of Four Psalms Modal written between 2013-16 including I Have No Haughty Looks, Make Haste To Deliver Me, and Bay Psalm 121. 

Press play beneath the lyrics (left) to hear a December 2016 recording by the Kuhn Choir of Prague, Lenka Navrátilová, choirmaster. A pdf of the full score available from the composer. Click here for a Sibelius vs with score on YouTube.
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